Haley Sturgeon

Familiar Names to Compete at Symetra Tour Copper Rock Championship

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Road to the LPGA

When she joined the BYU women’s golf program as a non-scholarship player from North Carolina, Kendra Dalton (cover photo) was not a likely LPGA Tour prospect.

Here she is, though, closer to reaching that level than any former Cougar since Carrie Summerhays Roberts, now BYU’s coach, who qualified for the LPGA Tour nearly 20 years ago. Dalton is an established player on the Symetra Tour, which is staging the inaugural Copper Rock Championship this week.

The event is a homecoming for Dalton and Haley Sturgeon, a Dixie State University graduate who received a sponsor exemption to compete for the $200,000 purse Thursday through Saturday at Copper Rock Golf Club in Hurricane.

Kendra Dalton

As the fourth of 20 tournaments in 2021, the Copper Rock Championship is another opportunity for Dalton to move up the money list. She’s 3 for 3 in making 36-hole cuts and, while her final rounds could be better, she likes the way she’s playing.

Dalton won consecutive tournaments on the Cactus Tour in Arizona in February, when some members of both the LPGA and Symetra Tours were preparing for their seasons. Those performances reflected the work she has done with Milo Lines, a former Utah Section PGA member who’s now teaching at Superstition Mountain GC in Arizona.

“My game’s really good and I’m excited to play the whole year and I feel good about moving on and getting (LPGA) status,” Dalton said.

That would require finishing in the top 10 on the Symetra Tour money list; Dalton is No. 27 through three events.

Dream Come True

Sturgeon was thrilled when John Horton, Copper Rock’s head PGA professional, awarded her the exemption into the Copper Rock Championship. As she said in February, after Horton delivered the news on the driving range during the Utah Section PGA’s Winter Classic, the exemption “kind of just seemed like a far-fetched dream when I first asked John about it.”

Haley Sturgeon

Sturgeon, who works as an assistant pro at The Country Club of Salt Lake City, is making her first Symetra Tour appearance. “Hopefully, it’s not my last,” she said.

The Korn Ferry Tour, the men’s equivalent of the Symetra Tour, offers a spot in the next event to any player who finishes in the top 25. In Sturgeon’s case, she would have to win the Copper Rock Championship to gain any status. She’s embracing that opportunity, while eager to see how her game compares.

Here’s a good sign: Sturgeon finished solo fourth in the Cactus Tour event that Dalton won in a three-way playoff with two touring pros in Queen Creek, Arizona. That performance showed her that “I can compete with those girls, even though I don’t have status, and knowing that I belong here,” Sturgeon said.

Dalton is a BYU success story, having improved every year of her stay in Provo. She was known for consistency, finishing in the top 20 in 29 of 45 events for the Cougars. In her final three years, she won three tournaments and finished second seven times. She helped BYU reach the NCAA Championships as a sophomore in 2016, the same year when she beat teammate Lea Garner in the final match of the Women’s State Amateur at Victory Ranch.

And in 2018, she turned pro and immediately qualified for the Symetra Tour, via the LPGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. She made 21 starts in the 2019 season and finished 56th on the money list with $20,185. That showing became even more significant when the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the tour’s 2020 schedule to 10 events, while every player’s status was frozen through 2021.

In essence, golfers’ 2020 earnings didn’t matter, as everyone started over this season. That helped Dalton, who expects to thrive in her third year. “I know what the travel is like, I know a lot of the golf courses, I know how the tour kind of runs,” she said. “And all of it’s a little bit overwhelming your first year, because it’s so different from college golf; you’re kind of out there on your own trying to figure it out. So that definitely is a nice thing, to feel a little more at ease.”

Sturgeon hopes to feel comfortable in the Copper Rock Championship. She has done everything she could to prepare for her Symetra Tour debut, traveling to Hurricane several times in the past two months.

The former Haley Dunn is married to Davis Sturgeon, who she describes as “my kindergarten sweetheart.” She’s working steadily toward PGA membership, while trying to maximize her playing ability.

Before focusing on golf, Sturgeon was a high-level junior ski racer and a Layton High School cheerleader known as the “tumble queen.” Injuries led her to give up ski racing, and she considered cheerleading in college before pursuing golf at Utah Valley University and then Dixie State.

Sturgeon won two Pac-West Conference individual titles for DSU, helping the women’s golf program get established. She pointed to those St. George-area ties in asking for the sponsor exemption, and she’s determined to follow through with a good showing in the Copper Rock Championship. Dalton and Sturgeon are part of featured pairings in the first two rounds, as announced by the Symetra Tour. Dalton will tee off at 8:47 a.m. Thursday, playing with Rachel Rohanna and Gigi Stoll. Sturgeon plays at 12:05 p.m. with Katelyn Dambaugh and Sophie Hausman.

Story by Kurt Kragthorpe for Fairways Media, Photos by Cactus Tour/Noah Montgomery and Fairways Media/Randy Dodson.

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Utah Section PGA Office: Governor’s Golf Industry Service Award

By Kurt Kragthorpe

The board of directors and staff members of the Utah Section PGA prefer to give awards, rather than receive them. Yet from his vantage point as the Section president, Valley View Golf Course Head Professional Dustin Volk recognized that one of 2020’s awards needed to stay in-house.

Volk nominated the Section staff, led by Executive Director Devin Dehlin, for Governor’s Golf Industry Service Award. He didn’t have to do much convincing of the other voters.

“I think we have the best Section staff in the country, for all that they do,” said Section Vice President Kent McComb. “As Section officers, they just make our job so easy. It’s pretty impressive.”

The Section staff’s defining trait of 2020 is how so many PGA programs and events were staged in normal fashion, or as close to it as possible amid a pandemic. Two undertakings, in particular, reflected both the staff’s determination to stay on schedule and willingness to make adjustments.

In the absence of sanctioned high school girls golf tournaments, the Section conducted an individual competition (two separate events, actually) for players in each classification. And with the innovation of off-site pro-am events at Thanksgiving Point Golf Club, the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open stayed on track at Riverside Country Club.

Dehlin’s staff includes Annie Fisher, assistant executive director; Aaron Goodman, tournament director; Cecily Bloxham, office manager; Jesse Dodson, media and communications; and Cassie Campos, junior golf.

Robert McArthur

Robert McArthur: Utah PGA Doug Vilven Distinguished Service Award

By Kurt Kragthorpe

The late Doug Vilven may or may not have approved of the new Utah Section PGA annual award that carries his name, but he undoubtedly would have endorsed the first recipient.

Robert McArthur, now retired after serving as Riverside Country Club’s longtime head professional, shared Vilven’s commitment to educating PGA pros. They worked together for 25 years or more as faculty members in the PGA training program in what McArthur describes as an effort to “help people along the way; that’s what this business is all about.”

Of course, McArthur’s response to receiving an award for his service is to insist that his instructor’s role was partly self-serving.

“You kind of get reenergized, going out and teaching young golf professionals that are coming along,” he said. “It helps you to refocus on what you’re doing at your club.”

McArthur did his job well, for a long time. He was named the Section’s Professional of the Year in 1989, and his influence will be noticeable for years to come. Just look at recent Utah Section PGA awards. Craig Norman, a former Riverside assistant pro, was the 2019 Professional of the Year. Kent McComb, who succeeded Norman, is the 2020 Jeff Beaudry Golf Ambassador Award recipient. And to extend the McArthur tree, Joel Grose – Norman’s assistant at Hobble Creek Golf Course — is the 2020 Assistant Professional of the Year.

McArthur, directly or indirectly, had a lot to do with the way those pros approach their jobs. “Just knowing him has made me a better person,” McComb said.

Kent McComb

Kent McComb: Jeff Beaudry Golf Ambassador Award

By Kurt Kragthorpe

The subject is slightly awkward. Imagine asking someone how they became a nice person.

The question is not all that silly, though. The way anyone treats other people is a modeled behavior, and that’s the case with Bountiful Ridge Golf Course Head Pro Kent McComb, who’s a product of some great examples in the golf profession.

True to his nature, McComb mentions a lot of them as a starting point, and then he keeps adding to the list. Robert McArthur, a mentor for 10 years as the former head professional at Riverside Country Club, is high on the list – not that he’ll take any credit for McComb’s personality.

“He’s probably the most loyal friend a guy can have,” McArthur said. “He genuinely cares about people. He treats everybody as if you’re his best friend; he’s that kind of guy.”

McComb adds Utah Golf Hall of Fame class of 2020 inductee Scott Whittaker and Bountiful Ridge’s Assistant PGA Professional Scott Olsen as two with major influence.

“Robert and Whitt are truly two of the greatest golf professionals I know,” he says. “More important they are even better people and friends. Their examples of professionalism is something I will always cherish. Scott has also been a great mentor and an example in my life.”

McComb says the best example is right in his own home: his wife, Jenilee. Before her, it was his parents, followed by a long list of other key influences, such as former Bountiful City Manager Tom Hardy and former Riverside General Manager Parley Peterson. Within the Utah Section PGA, he credits Robert and Reed McArthur, Jeff Jerman, Steve Wathen and the late Jeff Smith – and he’ll probably spend the rest of the year worrying about people he failed to mention.

That’s what makes McComb who he is, and that’s why he’s deserving of an award that honors Jeff Beaudry, whose kindness is among the traits that made him a member of the Utah Golf Hall of Fame.

1 Brett Watson and Kean Ridd

Brett Watson: Utah PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award

By Kurt Kragthorpe

From an outsider’s perspective, the Bill Strausbaugh Award may be the most difficult to define of any of the Utah Section PGA’s annual honors. Club relations? What does that mean?

In that sense, the Section’s 2020 winner provides a lasting example. There hardly could be a better illustration of the Strausbaugh Award’s intentions than what Brett Watson, the head professional of the renamed Timpanogos Golf Club in Provo, did in bringing all kinds of people and groups together to complete a remarkable redesign project.

It took a collaborative, community effort to maximize the property, and Watson played a major role in coordinating it. He can reflect proudly on “a five-year project for our team that has certainly had its ups and downs and is one I am honored to be associated with.”

Watson added, “We truly came together to create a golf facility unlike any other in Utah and, honestly, the world. … All of these organizations, groups and individuals are the definition of what the Bill Strausbaugh Award represents: a community working together to grow and bring the great game of golf to everyone.”

Timpanogos Golf Club (formerly East Bay) now features an 18-hole championship course, The Pasture Par 3 Course and the Legacy Trail Short Course.

In helping to make it all happen, Watson is thankful to Architect Kevin Atkinson, Superintendent Craig O’Farrell, former Director of Golf Kean Ridd and Provo City officials including Parks Director Scott Henderson. Entities such as the Wadsworth Golf Foundation, Fairways Media, Provo School District and Provo Power also played key roles, Watson said.

Ned Siegfried

Ned Siegfried: Utah PGA Wesley Ruff Golf Citizen Award

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Devin Dehlin had a lot of people to thank on that Monday morning in August, as he addressed a Media Day breakfast to launch the 2020 Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open at Riverside Country Club in Provo.

The tournament’s title is a good clue about where Dehlin, the Utah Section PGA’s executive director, was going with his story. If the reasons the Utah Open stayed on the 2020 calendar could be boiled down to one factor, Dehlin said, it would have to be Ned Siegfried’s insistence.

That’s how Siegfried became the 2020 winner of the Wesley Ruff Golf Citizen Award, renamed this year to honor Ruff, the ABC4 sportscaster, honorary Utah PGA member and a multiple winner of the award.

As a partner of the title sponsor law firm, Siegfried believes in the Utah Section PGA and in the mission of the Utah Open – to provide a high-level playing opportunity for Section members and to make a community impact. So in the spring, when organizers started talking about the 2020 Utah Open amid COVID-19 concerns, Riverside administrators and other sponsors were understandably skittish.

During one meeting, Siegfried said, he had “a sinking feeling, a pit in my stomach, that the Utah Open would go by the wayside.”

No, that would not happen. It took some adjustments, such as a cutback from the usual eight pro-am events and the extensive use of an alternate site, Thanksgiving Point Golf Club. The purse also was reduced, due to sponsorship issues on levels below Siegfried & Jensen’s commitment.

It all came together, though, in the Utah Open’s usual first-class presentation. The tournament became a showcase for rookie pro Peter Kuest, the former BYU All-American, and for Section members such as Craig Hocknull and Riverside Teaching Pro Matt Baird, who chased Kuest.

It all stems from Siegfried’s devotion to the game in Utah. “Golf’s always been a big part of my life,” he said. “I love the people. You just develop a bond with the PGA pros.”

Randy Oldham

Randy Oldham: Utah PGA Superintendent of the Year – Public

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Randy Oldham’s biggest move covered five miles. After a lifetime of being associated with Logan Country Club, Oldham took the superintendent’s position at Logan River Golf Course in 2013.

Going from a private club to a municipal facility, even in the same town, is quite an adjustment. The city’s layers of management, Oldham says, mean that he’s more like “a spoke in the wheel” at Logan River.

What’s the same? Oldham’s standards of maintenance. The average public golfer may not be as invested in the course as a country club member, but that only makes Oldham more determined to keep Logan River as pristine as possible.

By all accounts, he’s succeeding. He’s part of the third of four generations of the Oldham family in the golf industry, having followed his grandfather, Russell Sr., and father, Bus, as Logan CC superintendents. He held that position for 32 years before moving to Logan River, having been lured by former Logan Mayor Randy Watts to upgrade the course’s condition. Maybe he was destined to do so eventually, having grown up a couple of houses away from Logan River Professional Jeff John. In 2019, the LRGC advisory board credited Oldham for the course being “in the best shape it has been throughout its entire history.”

In 2014, Oldham was honored as Superintendent of the Year by the peer group then called the Intermountain Golf Course Superintendents Association.

Alan Davis

Alan Davis: Utah PGA Superintended of the Year – Private

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Working around the reality of COVID-19 is a theme of all of the Utah Section PGA’s 2020 awards. On the golf courses and in the golf shops, everyone involved has made adjustments during a unique year in the industry.

And that’s why Alan Davis of Willow Creek Country Club, the president of the Utah Golf Course Superintendents Association, is proud of the work that has been done at his facility in Sandy and throughout the state.

“Rolling with the punches would be a good way to sum it up,” Davis said. “Constantly modifying our operation throughout the year – dealing with labor issues, compliance issues and the high volume of play we received.”

Davis continued, “Our team did not back down. I owe every bit of this award to the staff; not only the grounds department, but the entirety of the staff of WCCC. We all were dealing with this unique situation and, through hard work and constant communication, I feel we rose to the occasion.”

Davis’ first job in the industry was as Willow Creek’s assistant superintendent in 2008-12. He then went home to his native North Carolina for two years, before working at Castle Pines in Colorado and Glenwild Golf Club in Park City, where he was the superintendent. He returned to Willow Creek in his current role in 2016.

Marty Bauer 2

Marty Bauer: Utah PGA Professional Development Award

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Marty Bauer was not merely giving himself more chances to win when he entered six teams in the Pro-Assistants Championship. It’s true that he won the event with Craig Hocknull, and tied for fourth place with Carson Willis, and that Bauer’s holed-out approach from 93 yards for an eagle in the final round was a memorable shot.

Even so, the real significance of Glenwild Golf Club’s major presence in the field is how it reflects Bauer’s emphasis on developing his staff members. He rewarded them with the trip in St. George and is always conscious of helping them advance in the profession.

Bauer’s receiving the PGA Professional Development award stems from the way he was treated at various stops in his own career. As Glenwild’s director of golf, he couldn’t ask for a better situation. He wants his staff members to reach the point where they can say the same thing.

Bauer hopes they’ll acquire enough skills and expertise and “start looking for a better job,” he said.

The culture at Glenwild models what Bauer experienced at stops including Crooked Stick Golf Club in Indiana and Baltimore Country Club. He has returned to Park City after formerly working at Park Meadows Country Club.

Bauer “does a great job of listening to what his professionals have to say,” said Craig Hocknull, Glenwild’s director of instruction. “That’s a tremendous quality he has.”

And then Bauer helps those staff members try out those innovations, giving them more experience. “I’ve worked for some fantastic golf pros who helped me,” Bauer said, “and that’s what I want for all my team, to let them work within the system that we’ve created.”